Skype calls up the mobile video future

Skype CEO Josh Silverman fronted the telecom industry yesterday and told them his firm would succeed where they had failed in making a business out of mobile video calls.
Kicking off the CommunicAsia Summit, Silverman said that video telephony – a concept promised by telcos since the 1960s – has become a reality via desktop PCs running Skype’s free VoIP client, with video calls accounting for 34% of Skype-to-Skype in 2009.
“That means that if you look at figures from TeleGeography showing that 12% of all international voice calls in 2009 were Skype calls, that means that 4% of international calls included video,” Silverman said.
The next frontier is mobile, and Skype is already exploring that space with Skype Mobile Video for the Nokia N900, which enables Skype video calls to other N900 devices or to PCs, and later to flatscreen TVs with embedded Skype clients.
“It will be good to learn from this and find out what our customers’ expectations are from mobile video – how they use it, how that’s different from the way they use desktop video and how we can make sure they get the experience they want,” Silverman said.
GigaOm Pro says the video call volume will grow from 600 million calls in 2008 to almost 30 billion calls by 2015. “We intend to lead that revolution,” Silverman said.
Telstra International chief Tarek Robiatti admitted in a followup CEO panel session that 3G operators had dropped the ball on video calls, which were pitched years ago as one of the chief differentiators for 3G.
“Video over 3G never took off because people didn’t know how to use it. It wasn’t simple to use, and simplicity is what drives usage. Skype has done that very well,” Robiatti said. “The question is how well can they do the end-to-end experience.”
StarHub CEO Neil Montfiore remained skeptical of video calls, regardless of technology, saying the quality “isn’t all that great”.
“The voice and video is rarely in sync, which takes away from the supposed benefits of video enabling non-verbal communications. It has to be a more real experience,” he said.